The raindrops from the sudden sharp summer shower splattered on the spreading and well-leafed canopy of the oak that was my welcome shelter. As I leant back against the solid trunk and idly watched the rain it struck me that I often take trees for granted. As a photographer of the landscape, this seems to be a dreadful admission.
With inactivity came the questions. Is it just because they are there? Because they are a familiar part of the scene? Because they have always been a part of our lives from playing peek-a-boo to climbing in our childhood to relaxing in their shade with a favourite partner as we grow older?
Yes, it’s all of those and more. When we lose a tree the world loses a valuable partner vital to its well-being as many Australian farmers and graziers in my home country have found. There I have seen paddocks with dead trees which had been ring-barked many years ago to clear the area for grazing or crops and, not too far away, other treeless paddocks that have great slashes gouged out of them by the heavy rains that over the years have washed away tonnes of valuable soil. Now, thankfully, the importance of trees has been recognised and millions are being planted in country Australia.
But, in other parts of the world the clearing of vast tracts of trees is still continuing. Even in my native Britain hedgerows and trees have been removed to facilitate the use of the large machinery that is now necessary for farmers to make a living out of the growing of grain crops.
Economics must have its part to play. People have to live and we must be sensible of the world’s need for wood and paper but let us hope that we are becoming more enlightened and understanding of the value that trees play in our lives.
Trees provide shelter and sustenance for all manner of life both great and small. They bind the soil to counter erosion. They breathe life into the air. They give us raw material. They provide wood to burn. They drop their leaves to nurture the very soil in which they grow. And, when they die and fall they continue to provide homes for small animals and insects as they gradually return to the soil from whence they came.
The shower ended and I picked up my camera and headed into the sun searching for the right place to make a photograph of my recent refuge. That’s one more thing that trees give us, a delight for our eyes. Let us stop taking them for granted.